Hiding Assets the Bitcoin Way

reasonable living expenses.” The tale of Bowman vs. Bowman, which contained many

typical elements of an acrimonious divorce, including that of a spouse providing false information about his financial worth, was unusual in one detail: one of the parties ended up in jail. It is by no means uncommon for one spouse to resist paying

an assessed settlement or to downplay or hide assets to keep them from the other spouse. Although many partners act responsibly and fairly in the dis- tribution of assets following the end of a marriage or cohabita- tion, some do not, and will go to many lengths to reduce or eliminate their financial obligations, especially by hiding assets in advance of an anticipated breakup. In the past few years, the potential for success in this endeav-

our was thrown a curveball when articles appeared either extol- ling or warning about a new way to hide money from an ex-partner. What is the method? Converting cash to Bitcoins, the crypto-


N JANUARY 2010, THE ONTARIO COURT OF APPEAL, in a 3-0 deci- sion, upheld a six-month jail sentence for a defendant who hid assets in a divorce case.

“The court said [Lloyd Wayne Bowman of Kitchener, Ont.] attempted to keep his ex-wife in the dark as he methodically drained $50,000 from his RRSPs in an effort to reduce his spousal support obligations,” the Globe and Mail reported. When he refused a chance to pay what he owed, the jail sentence was imposed. “Given the lengthy history of the appellant’s concerted attempts to hide his assets from the respondent — and the [trial] judge’s clear finding that the appellant’s contempt was ‘blatant’ and designed to ensure that the RRSPs were not avail- able for spousal support — we cannot say that this component of the sentence was unduly harsh,” said Justice Michael Moldaver. Bowman and his ex-wife, Sharon Bowman, had been married

23 years when they separated in late 2003. Two years later, they consented to an order calling for Bowman to pay Sharon $2,500 a month. Not long aſter, he applied to have the amount reduced, claiming his income had dropped to zero. “Madam Justice Cheryl Lafrenière of the Ontario Superior

Court found this reduction was a direct result of Mr. Bowman transferring shares of his company to his son,” the Globe said. “In her ruling, Judge Lafrenière also rejected Mr. Bowman’s claim that he needed the $50,000 from his RRSPs for routine,


currency that is oſten described as almost impossible to trace. An article by New York divorce lawyer David Centeno in the

Huffington Post, “Hiding Assets with Bitcoin in Divorce,” cau- tioned against the practice while explaining a little about a form of currency that is still a bit of an unknown to many people. “Bitcoin has been defined by its mysterious inventor, Satoshi

Nakamoto, as ‘a Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,’ ” Centeno wrote. “It is known as a cryptocurrency because users can pseudonymously transfer money directly to one another, peer to peer, without the need for a middle man like a Western Union, a bank or even a governmental authority.” In May 2016, a website called, which

advertises itself as the source of “the hottest Bitcoin news daily,” published an article titled “With Bitcoin, Hiding Assets in Divorce Is Risky, But It Pays.” Bitcoin, it noted, “would seem to provide the best of both

worlds if you want to hide assets in a divorce, but firstly, it goes without saying that you must ensure Bitcoin is legal in your country before you start investigating. It’s much easier to hold anonymously — all you need is the private key written in a hidden place, say the inner sole of your shoe, and you’re set.” Both governments and the legal system, it said, are “lagging

behind terribly when it comes to an understanding of cryptocur- rencies, so it would likely not even cross a solicitor’s or judge’s mind to consider looking for crypto-assets. If you buy your Bitcoin in-person in cash, there would be no record or receipt

Photo: Jaime Hogge

Siegfried Layda/Photographers Choice/Getty

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